10 June 2015

Cost Of Getting A Sailboat Shipshape & Shaking Her Down In The Bahamas

Tickety Boo anchored on the Little Bahama Bank in the Abacos.
Come on, let's face it, we all want to know how much people spend on stuff. 

How much did that handbag which Nicole Kidman was sporting at Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas really cost? How much did the neighbors spend on that new car of theirs? How much did that cute dress cost your co-worker? How much did the people next to you at the marina spend getting their new boat ready to cruise? And how much did it cost them to take their boat for a month-long shakedown cruise to the Bahamas? 

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how much Nicole's handbag cost, but from what our friends say, it was a super cute bag. 
But I can answer those last two questions because we just got our new-to-us 1987 Moody 346 ready to go cruising and we spent the last month in the Bahamas shaking her down.

Are you curious? Are you just a little bit nosy? Then, have a look at the details below of how much we spent.

Getting Tickety Boo Ready to Cruise (18 April - 9 May 2015)

When you buy a new boat, there's one thing you can be sure of. You're going to spend a lot more money on your boat. The purchase price of the boat is just the beginning. There are insurance, documentation, equipment, repairs, maintenance and marina costs that you'll have to shell out for. And it isn't just a one-off thing. You'll be shelling out money on your boat for as long as you own her. Maybe that's why they say that the two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day that you buy your boat and the day that you sell your boat?

We spent a whopping $7,487 getting Tickety Boo ready to cruise over a period of three weeks. Yikes. Yikes indeed. 

So what did we spend all this money on? Let's break it down.

INSURANCE | Total = $1,506

We bought two types of insurance policies. The first was Tow Boat US insurance - kind of like what you might have for your car. When it breaks down or you run out of gas, you give them a call. It cost $158 for an annual policy and covers us in the States and the Bahamas.

The second type of insurance we got was with IMIS (underwritten by Concept Special Risks) and covers damage to the boat, liability, personal property etc. Kind of like homeowner's insurance. It cost $1,348 for an annual policy which covers us on the East and Gulf Coasts in the States, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea (excluding Cuba, Columbia and Haiti). Our policy requires that we are laid up from July 15th - November 15th during hurricane season (as in we can't operate our boat) at Indiantown Marina in Florida (it is considered a hurricane hole). 

That's a lot of money for insurance! To make myself feel better, I worked out the per month cost - $125. That still seems like a lot. We're thinking through what we might do in terms of insurance next year to bring costs down. Maybe just get liability on our boat? Definitely drop Tow Boat US if we aren't cruising in the States.


We bought our boat through a private sale, but we did use a broker to hold the money in escrow, do title/lien searches, get the boat deregistered in Canada and take care of our US Coast Guard documentation paperwork. 

EQUIPMENT | Total = $2,099

We had to buy a lot of stuff for our boat. A lot of expensive stuff. Although, I bet we spent less on equipment than Nicole spent on her handbag. 

Some equipment was identified in our pre-purchase survey and had to be sorted out in order for us to be insurable (and safe). Things like two new anchors and 150' of anchor chain - all for the princely sum of $1206. But, I guess if you're going to spend a lot of money on your boat, making sure you have top-notch ground tackle is the place to do it. We also bought safety related items like updated flares, recharging kits for our PFDs and a replacement bag for our Lifesling totaling $204. A new steaming light and antenna set us back $123. 

But it wasn't all boring stuff - we spent $83 on decals with our new boat name and hailing port, we got a new BBQ ($264) and two US flags and one Bahamian courtesy flag ($66). Why two US flags, you may be asking? I had read that your flag is supposed to be one inch long for every foot length of your boat. But after I got it, took it out of the packaging, threw the packaging away, I decided it looked really over-sized on our boat. So I bought a smaller flag to use instead. We'll keep the larger flag as a back-up. 

REPAIRS & MAINTENANCE | Total = $3,009 

There were a number of boat projects we had to do before we could operate Tickety Boo. You can read all about them in this post, as well as check out our Boat Projects page. There were a few big jobs - like putting new bottom paint on ($771), replacing some thru-hulls ($1,546), changing out our sacrificial zinc ($336) and sorting out some electrical issues and getting our stern light to work ($200). 

MARINA COSTS | Total = $663

Of course, if you're going to work on your boat, you need someplace to do it at. For us, that was Indiantown Marina in Florida, where we bought Tickety Boo (check out this post if you want to see what the marina is like). We spent three weeks at Indiantown - 11 days on the hard in the workyard and 10 days on the water in a slip.

So there you go, our costs for getting Tickety Boo ready to go cruising in the Bahamas. Now, let's have a look at how much our month-long shakedown cruise cost us.

Bahamas Shakedown Cruise (10 May - 9 June 2015)

The purpose of a shakedown cruise is to test our your boat - see what works and what doesn't, identify what changes you want to make and figure out what else you need to buy for the boat. Basically, a shakedown cruise is a process by which you figure out how much more money you're going to have to shake out of your wallet to keep your boat happy.

It's all to painful to think about, so if you're going to go on a shakedown cruise, why not head to the Bahamas to do it? In between making lists of stuff you need to fix and stuff you need to buy, you can distract yourself with snorkeling and Kalik beer. 

Overall, we spent $1,024 on our shakedown cruise, which works out to $256 a week. It's less than we spent traveling around the States in our 13' Scamp travel trailer ($434 a week - see here for details), in large part due to fabulously free anchoring!

So here's how it breaks down.

GROCERIES | Total = $429

This is broken down into three categories - provisioning in the States prior to heading off to the Bahamas ($267), groceries we bought in the Bahamas ($159) and ten gallons of drinking water we got in the Bahamas (25 cents a gallon). To be fair, we only paid for five gallons of water - our pals on S/V Wild Blue picked up the tab for the other five gallons (thanks!).

Everyone tells you how much more expensive things are in the Bahamas, so we stocked up on a bunch of stuff before we left. Lots of pasta, rice, cans of tomatoes and beans, onions and other fresh veggies, cheese, coffee, milk (UHT and powdered), brownie mix (which sadly didn't cook properly in our oven), tortillas, meat (a couple of pork loins, kielbasa and some brats) and, of course, a bag of Hershey's miniature chocolates. We also stocked up on some beer and booze, but those costs aren't included in here. 

My approach to provisioning was really laid back compared to when we cruised in New Zealand. Granted, we weren't out cruising as long this time, but I also learned some valuable lessons from New Zealand - trying to keep track of our provisions is a huge waste of time and you can never have too much coffee or chocolate on board. (If you're interested, you can read more about provisioning in New Zealand here, here and here.)

We also topped up our food supplies while in the Bahamas - buying things like eggs, cheese, bread, salami, chicken and tortillas.

We still have a fair bit of food left which will help keep our grocery budget down during June. 

DRINKS & EATING OUT | Total = $133

We probably spent a bit more on drinks and eating out then we anticipated, but we had fun doing it (even if some of the food was mediocre). 

One of the best places we dropped some money at was the Blue Bee bar in Green Turtle Cay. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to order the Goombay Smash rum punch. So delicious! You'll end up ordering another glass (or two or possibly three). 

One of the best values we found was Bahamian mac n'cheese. Nothing like what you get in the States. They serve their mac n'cheese in squares, kind of like a casserole, and usually as a side dish. I was feeling peckish one day and got some at a snack bar in Hopetown - only $4 and it filled me right up. 

We also had a mediocre dinner at Cap'n Jack's in Hopetown, lunch at the Wrecking Tree (where Nicole Kidman was spotted a couple of days previously) and snacks and drinks at McIntosh's, both in Green Turtle Cay.

FUEL | Total = $250

We spent $201 on 50 gallons of diesel for our boat and $48 on ten gallons of gas for our dinghy. We ended up motoring far more than we would have liked (including both Gulf Stream crossings) which ratcheted up the fuel bill. However, we still have around 5 gallons of gas left and somewhere between 15-20 gallons of diesel left. 

LPG | Total = $8

Before we left, we filled up one of our LPG tanks (our other one was full). We use LPG to cook with, so it is pretty important to make sure you never run out. Otherwise, someone I know gets pretty grumpy if there isn't any coffee in the morning. We used up one tank, but still have quite a bit left in our other tank. 

MOORING BALLS | Total = $44

One of the biggest ways we saved money was to anchor every night except two. Anchoring is free. Mooring balls aren't. And marinas in the Bahamas are incredibly expensive. Staying at a marina in the Bahamas wasn't ever going to happen. Some places are over $3 a foot. It would have cost us over $100 to stay at many marinas in the Abacos, and water and electricity aren't always included. Definitely not in our budget. Plus, its so much nicer to be on the hook watching the sun set in a beautiful anchorage. 

Although we anchored the majority of the time, we did pick up two mooring balls. The first one was at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart Florida on our first night. There is a free anchorage just across the way, but the wind was going in the wrong direction, we hadn't anchored this boat before and our windlass wasn't working. So, we took the easy way out and picked up a mooring ball. For $23, we got a place to park our boat, free WiFi and a hot shower. 

The second time we picked up a mooring ball was in Man O'War Cay. The harbor is basically a mooring field and we read in our guide that the holding was poor there. So, it was the easy way out again for us. For $21, we got a place to park our boat, no WiFi and no showers. Not such a great deal. 

CLEARING IN | Total = $150

Boats cruising in the Bahamas are required to get a cruising permit (which also doubles as a fishing permit). The cost is based on the length of your boat. Under 35' and it will cost you $150, 35' and over and it will cost you $300. Our boat is 34'5". The lady at Customs & Immigration wanted to round up to 35'. If you know anything about Scott, then you'll know that this wasn't going to happen. After a bit of discussion and some phone calls, she agreed that our boat was indeed less than 35'. So in exchange for $150, we got a 90 day cruising permit. 


We ended up buying some clothes pins (can't have too many of these on a boat) and a can opener. Our can opener broke. When you live on a boat, depend upon canned goods for dinner and are in an anchorage without access to stores, restaurants etc. then this is a disaster. Surprisingly, one of the things I always say to Scott is that it is so important to have a back-up can opener on board. Did we have one? No. So we bought a $6 can opener in Marsh Harbour. Worked the first day, then once we left Marsh Harbour, it stopped working. Awesome. I wonder if Nicole keeps a spare can opener in her handbag?

So there you go - what it cost us to get Tickety Boo shipshape and take her out cruising in the Bahamas. It's just too depressing to look at how much we've spent, so I'm off to see if we have any Bahamian rum left. That might help ease the pain, especially as a bottle of Castillo rum only cost us $10.

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  1. Great post. Sigh it does mean that I am going to have to go to work today and make some more money though so I can afford to join you one day!
    Ps what sort of meat is 'brats'?
    In NZ naughty children are referred to as brats. However I'm sure you haven't resorted to eating bad kids...?!

    1. Your question about brats made us laugh! It's hard to believe we speak the same language sometimes. There are so many phrases and words that you Kiwis use that I just couldn't wrap my head around at first (like box of fluffy ducks), so it's nice to know that there are some American words and phrases that Kiwis don't know :-) Brats is short for bratwursts - a yummy sausage that you grill up. Best eaten in a bun with chopped up onion, mustard and some sauerkraut (if you're lucky enough to have some on your boat). Delicious! Brats (or naughty children - same term in Americano) are sent to their room without any brats for dinner. We pronounce "brats" (as in the sausage) differently then we do "brats" (as in naughty children). Not sure what the Kiwi pronunciation would be. I know when you say the word "dance", the "a" sound really different than ours. So maybe "brats" the sausage and "brats" the kids sounds the same in Aotearoa?

  2. Great Article.... Well written and is accurate... Towboat US is well recommended... U never know what can happen to put you dead in the water needing assistance.. and the cost of towing or a ungrounding can get in the thousands of dollars very quickly...

    1. Thanks for the nice feedback Capt Sam! We've heard the horror stories of how much it costs if you need help while cruising in the States, so we'll definitely keep it as long as we're here. It's probably one of those things you hope you never have to use, but are so glad you have it when you need it!

  3. First, that is the best name I've ever heard for a boat. Second, while I love Galapagos, had there been a Moody for sale up here when the time was right, I would have been chomping at the bit to snap it up. I seriously love those boats. Third, it saddens me that as I read your post I realized how immured I have become to spending large sums of money on a boat. Sigh. After outfitting Galapagos, I no longer flinch when I read posts about how much it costs. Viva anchoring!

    1. Thanks Melissa - we love the name! We always knew that it was what we were going to call our next boat. We're really happy to have snagged a Moody in the States.

  4. Congratulations on getting it all together. Interesting details here. Reminds me what I knew when we had our boat - it's a hole in the water you pour water into.

    1. Boats are definitely holes in the water you pour money into. They seem to be needy little creatures - always wanting you to buy them stuff and pay attention to them in the form of boat projects.

  5. Thanks for the reporting. Love your sense of humor, too. I am doing a comparison of cruising versus house-dwelling at my AppliedSailing blogspot. As a sailor who thought I would be voyaging at this point, the comparison is interesting to me. What am I missing? Summary, our house costs about $400K and we live on about $10K a month trying to keep things simple and frugal. We only see what is local, not very broadening! OK, the house increases in value at a bit more than the cost of living. A boat doesn't do that. Summary summary: cruising is really interesting and not expensive. I miss it a lot. Maybe next year...

    1. Glad you found our cost reporting useful Norm! What's the link for your applied sailing blog? I tried to find it, but couldn't and would be really interested in seeing your cruising vs. house-dwelling comparison.

  6. The quick answer is that Nicole's handbag probably cost her nothing because some designer probably gave it to her. She, however, isn’t as lucky as you are at the moment despite all the costs. You have the luxury of seeing the world instead of being cooped up all the time. Your stress level is way lower and you cannot put a price tag on health.

    Steve Burgess @ Atlanta Yacht Sales


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